Your internet data just got a little more private thanks to the Federal Communications Commission. In a 3 to 2 vote, the commission has ruled that internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon need to ask for consent to share certain user data with third parties.
This means if the service provider wants to share data categories such as browsing history, app usage history, mobile location, financial and health information, Social Security numbers, and email and messaging content to third-party agencies, they are now required to get “opt-in consent” from customers. ISPs can share data deemed as “nonsensitive,” such as an email addresses, as long as there’s an option for consumers to opt out.
Any data collection done by these service providers also has to be transparent, as they will have to “provide customers with clear, conspicuous, and persistent notice about the information they collect, how it may be used, and with whom it may be shared, as well as how customers can change their privacy preferences.”
These regulations only limit how the service provider, like AT&T or Verizon, shares data with third-party groups — it does not mean Verizon, for example, can’t use such data itself. These rules do not affect other websites and their privacy policies, like Google and Facebook, because they fall under the authority of the Federal Trade Commission.
This last point struck a nerve with a few providers, such as AT&T, which has previously said “there is no sound reason to subject broadband providers to a different set of rules than other internet companies; indeed, as AT&T and others have explained, this would only confuse consumers and deny broadband providers the same opportunity other internet companies have to participate in the fast-growing digital advertising market.”
The FTC already has similar rules to the ones set in place by the FCC today, but the latter includes browsing history and app usage. Critics, such as FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who rejected the regulations, say these rules should be unified across all service providers and companies.
“If the FCC truly believes that these new rules are necessary to protect consumer privacy, then the government now must move forward to ensure uniform regulation of all companies in the internet ecosystem at the new baseline the FCC has set,” Pai said in a statement.